Monday, February 22, 2016

The Guy with the Purple Backpack

Quillon Grapevines
This week was great.

The Guy with the Purple Backpack
On the bus back from zone meeting, a guy with a purple backpack came up to us speaking English. His name is Antonio. He has a beard, shoulder length hair, knows French, English, and Spanish, and has traveled around the globe to at least 20 other countries. Cool guy. Anyway, he admittedly has a drinking problem but knows that our message can help because he has a brother up in Santiago who was a heavy drinker and chain smoker until he quit as soon as he heard the gospel and converted.

We taught him twice this week in the church building, and then he ended up coming to Church on Sunday.  All three times he said he felt peace, something he doesn't get much. So far, he is doing his homework: reading the Book of Mormon and drinking less.

That was the highlight of the week.

Hey, I Know You
Knocking doors isn't always the most effective way to find people to teach, but when you bring a member with you, well, sometimes surprising things can happen. So, we were knocking doors one night with a member, Manuel, and this 15 year-old guy was completely rejecting us. But when he took a look at the member in-tow, and realized he knew Manuel, well, he changed his whole demeanor. That led to a discussion on an array of topics: prayer, guitars, the Plan of Salvation, and how science and religion are more connected than people sometimes think.

So yeah, because of an awesome member who was willing to tag along with us missionaries, we got a new investigator!

Adios Hermana Piriz
Hermana Piriz (a sister missionary in our ward) is going home to Uruguay. We had a party for her Friday night with a small group of members. It was nice.

Avellana - Quillon's Hazelnut
Had a nut called Avellana. It supposedly only grows in the hills around Quillon and looks just like a hazelnut.

Like I said, it has been a great week. We hit nearly every goal set. It's a good feeling.

Happy Birthday Ashley!

And Tenga una buena Semana,
Elder Connor Nef

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Circus Came to Town

Guess what I'm gonna be eating for a while.
I am always hungry here - it kind of surprises my companion.  But I have now solved my hunger problem. I bought a 50-pound bag of potatoes for only 4 luca ($6). Now I will just have to get creative with fixing them. Had to carry the bag roughly a mile, but come on - what a deal!

A Turn of Inspiration
We had the feeling that the Bishop has been feeling pressure. And since this ward needs him, we decided to drop by his house in hopes of lifting his spirits. When we arrived, he was working in the garage (he's a mechanic), and as we small-talked a bit, it was clear that he was too busy for a visit.

But as we were about to leave, Elder Cowley suddenly became faint. The Bishop was shocked and escorted us inside for some watermelon. As Elder Cowley recovered, we thought that this was our chance to slip in a message about enduring to the end, but the thing is, we didn't teach the lesson because the Bishop began sharing his conversion story.

Bishop's Conversion
At the age of 9 he began drinking alcohol and by 15 he was into all types of drugs. A few years ago he started taking the lessons and after attending Church and partaking the Sacrament for the first time, he had no desire to drink or smoke again. (This was a hardcore addict who felt the feeling described in Alma 36).

While he shared his story, he was emotional. I believe that he needed the reminder of his strength and the strength of the gospel. Sometimes a sick companion helps move the work along.

"This is the True Church. Go there"
Went teaching with a young member named Damian (he's awaiting his mission call). We taught Jose (trying to prepare him for the temple). Jose converted to the church a year and a half ago. He told us it was because of a dream he had where there was this guy pointing to the church saying, "This is the true church. Go there."  And he went. How's that for direct revelation.
Damian, Elder Cowley, Jose, Me
Mini Cambio - All Espanol
Went on a mini-cambio (mini exchange) and had to learn to communicate solamente in Spanish because my companion for the day was from Mexico. Good practice. Also for the mini-cambio, since I was the one to stay in our sector, I was senior companion for a day. Little scary but went well.

The main dilemma in our area is member retention. Currently, we have around 450 inactives on our records. That's astounding. We find a lot of people who have strong testimonies but not strong conversion. They have knowledge of the gospel but lack commitment to act. Our plan is one of conversion - inviting all to Christ and endure to the end. In some cases, we will need to remind them of the path.

Speaking of tracting and work. We don't knock doors out here. Instead, we stand outside gates and yell, "ALO!"

Breakfast at the Lake
Members invited us to the lake for breakfast and soccer activity. Fun.

The Circus Came to Town
The circus moved to the empty lot a block down from us.  The Brothers Karza Circus. Talked to some of the people there, they're nice. But I have one complaint. They blare music from the movie Frozen every night - half the time in Spanish. I swear there is no escape from that movie.

That's it, people. A week in the life of Elder Nef. My days in the next little while will be working with members, teaching investigators, keeping tabs on my clown friends, and learning how to cook potatoes. Lots and lots of potatoes.

Ciao for Now,
Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Newby Conference in Concepcion

Went to a conference in Concepcion for new missionaries. Elder Garcias (another newby) and I headed out one morning, but along the way our bus broke down. Determined to make conference, we quickly hopped on another bus, and when we finally arrived, I met up with my CCM buds (missionaries from the Mexico MTC).

The two-day conference was good - various workshops (ranging from Obedience, Planning, Studying) taught by the president, his wife, and the assistants.

with Elder Allen
Mini-Cambio in Concepcion
After lunch, they paired each of us with a zone leader and sent us out to work the streets of Concepcion. I was with Elder Allen - a guy from Seattle, Washington. We mostly contacted, but the real treat was tagging along with him to teach a First Lesson to a gal. The Spirit was strong.

That night, I didn't sleep well because I was taller than my mattress (even diagonally).  The next morning, it was back to conference where I got some one-on-one time with President and Sister Arrington.

Then it was goodbye to my CCM buddies and I was back on the bus to Chillan (where we had some more zone workshops), and finally home to Quillon.

There are so many fun facts about this city and the Chilean culture, so I think I'll bullet-point them for you.

Mission Fun Facts:
-  "Quillon" is the right-angle crossbar on a sword handle between the blade and the hilt.

-  Since we cannot ingest water, everything I drink here is from the Coca Cola Co. (Fanta, Hidden Valley etc)

-  Grapevines grow everywhere, and we are surrounded by fruit trees. Cool.
 - Chilean Spanish can be described best by comparing it to English dialects. For example, Mexican Spanish is like Valley girl Spanish. Dominican is like the southern drawl Spanish, and Chilean is like a fast, thick Irish brogue to English.

-  Chileans add -po to the end of words. For instance, they say "sipo" instead of "si."

-  It does not get dark until 10pm, and sunsets are cool.
Quillon sunset
-  The Seal of Chile has a Goat and a Condor on it. Why a goat?

-  I cannot fully stand up on any bus unless I stand under the Emergency roof exit.
Brazo de la Reina

-  You can't walk a block without seeing at least 3 dogs.

-  They have a pastry here called "Brazo de la Reina" - the Queen's Arm. A cake roll filled with very sweet caramel and covered in nuts or coconut.

-  Supermarkets here are more like small gas station stores.

-  Instead of saying "Adios," Chileans, like Italians, say "Ciao!"

-  Obedience is Power!

It was a week of conference inspiration. Now it's time to put that inspiration into action.

Blessings to All. Ciao!
Elder Connor Nef

Saturday, February 6, 2016


This week was good. We are up to seven investigators - a great improvement from having zero when we arrived. We are realistic with the fact that not all prospects will stick around, but our focus will be on progressing everyone we can. I have a feeling that a lot of my time will be planting seeds.

We get a lot of practice because we spend many hours knocking doors. And it's a good thing that the people here are super loving, because it makes the rejections so much easier to swallow.

Language on the Lift
My language skills are coming along great. I can understand about 50% of Chilean Spanish now and it's picking up every day. In fact, sometimes I understand people better than my companion (and his Spanish is awesome).

Elder Cowley
Speaking of my companion, Elder Cowley and I get along great. He told me that before his mission he was a shy guy. Not any more. He is very animated and everyone loves him. He is known for finding 3,000 family names in his ancestry in one hour. Amazing. Looks like his mission is extended to both sides of the veil.

Se Habla Ingles?
We started up a weekly English class, held every Saturday. This will give us a little more exposure and provide a positive service to the community.

Another activity we do is playing soccer once a week with members, less-actives, and anyone else who wants to join in. So fun.

Missionary Activity
Had an activity today at a member's home. Two zones came together for soccer, basketball, hanging out and eating. Both zones are big, so we had 1/4 of the mission there.
Missionary activity at a ward member's home
Crooning with Patricio
Karaoke Anyone?
Ward activity this week was Karaoke and dessert night. We made snickerdoodles to contribute to the munchie table and they were a hit! During the activity, my companion and I braved a song with a less-active name Patricio, singing Hey Jude. And guess what? Afterward, Patricio said he wants to meet with us more. Cool!

It was a fun ward activity. I like the bishop, Bishop Olivares. He's a cool guy - a convert of five years, who was inactive for a while, but then got his footing in the gospel and was made branch president then bishop.

Two Hermanas (sister missionaries) share the ward with us: Hermana Piriz (from Uruguay) and Hermana Miner (from Utah).

Our ward mission leader, Mario, refers to me as Friend and treats me like a grandson. Great guy. Despite how small the ward is, we always have a lunch appointment with someone.
Ward mission leader, Mario
Well, that's our week - full of activities. So long for now from the southern hemisphere!

Elder Connor Nef